I remember when I was a little boy, asking Mom why grown-ups never seemed to be excited about another birthday. She said that once you grow up, some people forget that getting older can be fun. She nailed that answer, just like the one she gave when I asked her how people can know when they’re in love. “When you can wash the other person’s socks and underwear and not mind,” she replied. Some 50 years later, I still marvel at the profound wisdom in that statement. And that woman.
What leaves me speechless though is the knowledge that I am older now than she was then. I have surpassed in years the parents who then seemed to me to be so wise and strong and unflinchingly dependable. They were the parents who made parenting look like a calling from God. Which is of course exactly what it is. But somehow it was easier to believe that when I watched them do it than when I try it.
55. In some circles I’m a senior now. I who was once shocked to find that our church youth group took in people up to the age of 30. “But they’re not young!” I protested. I who dated a few beautiful young women in my day, and now find myself dating a few beautiful women again. Divorced for the past 12 years, I still lie awake some mornings staring at the ceiling and wondering how I got here. This wasn’t how I thought I would be in my 50s, venturing out onto dating sites like some puppy from the storybooks I once read my daughters, plaintively moving from one stranger to another, extending the same shy question over and over. “Will you be my friend?”
On those sites I have met a few friends who are beautiful indeed, and felt for a while blessed and loved and touched by their wisdom and kindnesses. But here I am still, divorced at 55. Divorced from a partner, and divorced from the vision of the family man and husband I always thought I’d be by now.
When words tumble this quickly I tend not to filter or fight them, but instead am content just to funnel the torrents as they flow into straight lines that hopefully make sense. But as I read back over those that have flowed out so far, I can’t help but be struck by how forlorn I sound. And that’s a shame because, as much as I never feel truly complete while alone, I also know I am happy and blessed to just be who I am. I am a dad. I still love my dog and my job and the sound of a Les Paul and the smell of cut grass. I get lots of things wrong but I get the most important things right. I am grateful for each day God gives me, and for the family and friends He keeps sending my way. So yes I am alone, but I am not alone in being alone.
If Mom and Dad were still here, they would tell me that I’m doing alright and that they were proud of me, just as I sincerely tell my daughters those same words each day. And that’s the irony and continuity of getting old. Here on the border of 55, most days I still feel as young and silly and alive as I did when I was 45 or 25 or even just five. Maybe my best days are still ahead or maybe they’re not. But no matter how good tomorrow or next week or next year may be, and whether I will still be divorced at 56 or 66 or whenever, I am blessed and privileged and yes even happy to be who and where I am.
Tomorrow I turn 55. That’s a gift not given to all. I will open and cherish and spend it wisely in deed.